And now for something completely different…the third instalment in my “Two People, Both Talking” series! This is the kind of story you don’t need much context for, but if you’d like some anyway Volume 1 is here and Volume 2 is here. The general idea is that two people, ages and genders unknown, are trapped in an unspecified location for unknown reasons and have nothing to do but argue with each other. Think Waiting for Godot but even less specific, and much sillier.
The two of them sat in a silence that was not so much stony as rocky, boulderish, granite quarry-esque even. It had been a long time since either of them had liked each other and a longer time still since they could remember each other’s names.
‘It’s not all bad, is it?’ one of them said, hoping against hope that they wouldn’t immediately get shot down with a sarcastic zinger.
‘Every single aspect of it is bad. I dislike the place. I dislike the company. And there’s a distinct lack of anything that could possibly make the situation more bearable.’
The first speaker breathed a sigh of relief. That hadn’t been sarcastic at all.
‘You ever make bets on how long it’ll take before we get out of here?’
‘Who the hell would I make bets with? You’re the only other person here.’
‘Well, do you remember making any bets?’
‘No, but I asked you first.’
‘Sometimes I think you pretend to be relentlessly imbecilic just to annoy me.’
One of them spat on the floor and instantly received a disapproving kick from the other. This led to a mini-war in which the two of them kicked ineffectually at each other for what seemed like two days but was in fact three. Eventually one of them caught the other’s foot and held it fast — always a sure sign that a heartfelt speech was coming.
‘Look, it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve known each other for how long, two weeks now?’
Both of them were wrong.
‘Doesn’t matter. The point is that Confucius teaches us that those who sit together, work together.’
‘He definitely doesn’t.’
‘And we’ve sat together too long now not to work together. If we work together we can one day achieve things that would be unimaginable to either of us were we, eh, not working together. Now I don’t want to get sentimental on you, but I know for a fact that you love me. And there’s just a chance I might like you too. Our mutual love is Platonic both in the sense that it’s utterly sexless and in the sense that it is the perfect abstract ideal of love, the model for all friendships to follow. Once we admit this to ourselves, in all conscience and clarity, we’ll stop having these kicking spats that last for days. The years-long silences too will be a thing of the past.’
According to you we’ve only known each other two weeks, thought the second one, not unpleasantly.
‘A penny for your thoughts,’ murmured the one who had not a penny to spend and nowhere to spend it.
‘What I think is that you made a truly emotional speech just now. My body may not have moved in 73 years but your words have gone a considerable way towards moving my emotions.’
‘Is that a tear I see rolling down your cheek?’
‘I’m so happy.’
‘You can let go of my foot now.’
The first one obliged, and the two of them sat in a silence that contained more genuine human feeling than any silence before it.
‘Can I borrow your book of librettos tonight?’
‘How dare you.’
‘Are you kidding me? After all the progress we just made?’
‘It’s like I don’t know you any more. I’m teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I thought you wanted to repair our fractured relationship for the sole purpose of making the world a slightly less vile place, and it turns out all you ever wanted was my Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan.’
‘Is a night’s pleasurable reading really so much to ask?’
‘You know it is. You know that book is the only thing here that means the slightest thing to me.’ A dramatic pause. ‘You included.’
‘Well, that was unnecessary.’
‘True. And cold. Much like an unused fridge.’
‘You’re really making quips at a time like this? Remind me why I spend any time with you.’
‘Because we’re trapped in a sunless hellhole with no chance of escape and always will be.’
‘Thanks for reminding me.’
The two of them sat in a silence that was not so much granite quarry-like as Rocky Mountains-esque. It was punctuated at intervals by the sound of feet lazily kicking at each other. It’s hard to say whether the fighting finally stopped due to emotional inertia or physical exhaustion, but it is certain that it didn’t signify an end to the bitter resentments that caused it. When at last the combatants drifted off to sleep their dreams were fitful and morose.
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